WHO warns 'chronic' global shortage of virus protective gear 'urgent

THE World Health Organization warned that the dire lack of protective gear for health workers is proving to be a threat in the fight to end the COVID-19 pandemic.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged industrial powerhouse countries to ramp up production of personal protective equipment (PPE) as the global body warned that the battle against the new coronavirus was only just beginning.

“The chronic global shortage of personal protective equipment is now one of the most urgent threats to our collective ability to save lives. When health workers are at risk, we’re all at risk. This problem can only be solved with international cooperation and solidarity,” he said, adding that health workers in poorer countries deserved the same protection as those in wealthier states.

Tedros said the WHO had shipped almost two million individual PPE items to 74 countries and was preparing to send a similar amount to a further 60 nations, adding that he had urged the G20 countries to use their "industrial might and innovation" to produce and distribute the tools needed to save more lives.

“We must also make a promise to future generations, saying: 'never again.' Viral outbreaks are a fact of life. How much damage they do is something we can influence,” he said.

The new coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 25,000 people, with Europe accounting for most of the deaths, according to an AFP tally based on official statistics. Around 550,000 cases have been registered around the world since the outbreak began in China late last year.

Tedros said that more than 100,000 people had now had the virus and recovered.

“We’re only at the beginning of this fight. We need to stay calm, stay united and work together,” he said.

Mindful that a safe, properly-tested, preventive vaccine remained at least 12 to 18 months away, Tedros said. in the meantime, trials were under way to find therapeutics that could help treat those already suffering from the virus.

He said that in Norway and Spain, the first patients were about to enrol in the WHO’s so-called solidarity trial, which will compare the safety and effectiveness of four different drugs or drug combinations.

“More than 45 countries are taking part in trial and the more that join, the faster we will have results,” he stressed.

AFP tallies showed a total of 300,000 cases have now been recorded in Europe, as the United States overtook China and Italy as the country with the most infections.